Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Modern Morality, a Miserable Mess

Through the years, my dad has gotten a lot of free magazines sent to him to place in his waiting room for his patients to peruse while waiting.  Now that he's retired, he obviously doesn't need all of them, so one day last week, my mother brought a few up to our house for us to enjoy--magazines that were applicable to our life situation of having young children.  I picked up one to leaf through while I finished lunch recently, and I could not believe some of the things I read in it.

It was a run-of-the-mill parenting magazine, the kind that tells you that your child should be walking by 13 or 14 months of age (ours never do), what the hottest toys are for Christmas this year (I don't think I'll be buying them, thanks anyway), and how to deal with siblings who don't get along.  It's not a Christian magazine, but not a radical left-leaning magazine with an agenda to promote either.  Just a "normal" American parenting magazine.

However, if what I read in it is normal, where in the world is our culture headed?!  And how far have we fallen from the societal norms in place when our country began?!

Let me give you some examples of what stood out to me (other than the overt emphasis on consumerism which is bothersome enough all by itself)...

~ the inclusion of profanity:  on the off chance that one of my children would actually pick up this magazine and look inside, enticed by the colorful advertising of toys every child *needs*, I don't want their innocent eyes to chance upon the four-letter word that starts with "D" that I discovered on one of the pages -- at this stage of life, my kids say "oh, bother!" when they're frustrated (inspired by Winnie-the-Pooh, of course) -- I'm not eager for their understanding to be broadened in this way, and the thought that profanity is used casually in a magazine like this is shocking to me

~ the statement that this coming year is "the year to put yourself first" -- this was immediately qualified by the statement that no, we're actually supposed to put ourselves in second place:  right after the kids -- ya know, I might be strange, but in my ordering of priorities, I've got two other things that come in before me:  God and my husband -- now I understand that not everyone has a relationship with God so not everyone would put Him in first place -- but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that part of the reason so many modern American marriages disintegrate is because Mom makes the kids the center of her universe and neglects Dad -- so, no thanks, modern American parenting magazine, I don't think I'll be putting either myself or my kids in first place this coming year -- I believe that as I pour out myself for others (God, husband, children, friends), I am filled -- that order of priorities works for me!

~ the disrespect to men -- jibes about how, for example, men are the wimpy ones who complain about pain do nothing to enhance male/female relationships

~ acceptance of ella (the new morning-after-after-after-after-after pill) -- yep, five days after an "encounter," you can pop this pill and quietly eliminate anything anyone that might have come into being from that encounter -- when I think of the miracle of life and the wonder of pregnancy and the many women whose wombs yearn to be filled, I grieve at the thought of women being encouraged to go the ella route -- I understand that there are times in a woman's life when, for various reasons, it is not in her best interests to mother a child -- there are answers for how to deal with that and how to help a woman through that extremely difficult situation -- but abortion is never the answer, and I will never change my mind on that -- and, modern American parenting magazine, no matter how jovially you discuss ella and no matter how neatly it's packaged, anything labeled as "emergency contraceptive" will always be absolutely repulsive to me

~ the advice given about how to deal with dissatisfaction in intimacy -- for reasons of common decency, I won't write what that advice was or say any more about this

~ the attitude that children are a bother, not a blessing, and that you should carefully control how many you have so that you don't end up with too many "bothers"

~ the idea that beauty comes from the latest lash booster, and that every woman is sitting around yearning for longer eyelashes

Although all of the above stood out to me glaringly, I do realize that, for better worse or for worse, they are a part of our modern American culture.  I do tend to live in a bubble; but the walls of my bubble are clear, so even though I'm insulated from the full impact of the cultural drift we're experiencing, I realize it's happening.  I shouldn't be shocked.  I really shouldn't.

But then I saw two more things in the magazine, and yes, these did shock me.

The first was an ad for a well-known diaper company.  The ad pictured a typical child's room: cozy teddy bear, shelves of books, a rattle lying abandoned on the floor.  But in the center of the room, in LARGE white letters, were the words
In front of the bottom word, and partially blocking the middle two letters, was a box of wipes by this respected company:  the wipes being the item that was actually being advertised.  But even though the entirety of the letters was not visible, I could easily picture Josiah or David flipping through the magazine (or even glancing at it as I was reading it), having their attention drawn by the picture, and then asking innocently, "What's that word?"

"Well...um...it's...uh...it's not a word that Daddy and I have chosen to say and it's not one that you're allowed to say either, so let's just turn the page, shall we?"  Fortunately, that scenario didn't happen, because I didn't let them see the magazine.

,But seriously, are advertisers allowed to use what I would consider to be profanity in such a way?

And then the last thing--and this was when I decided that I'd had enough and wasn't going to read anymore... In answer to a question about giving, the magazine's response was this:
When it comes to charity, you want to give so it feels good, not until it hurts.

Oh, yeah?  So that's what motivates us:  feeling good?  That's our standard for how much to give?  Because clearly it's all about me, right?

And giving til it hurts would be far too RADICAL or CRAZY for us.  Because of course, no wise teacher or leader would ever expect us to give up everything...

...or would He?

Despite the fact that I just referred to Jesus, and despite the fact that anyone who reads my blog for...oh...about 2.8 seconds knows how important my relationship with Him is to me, I'm actually not just thinking of Christian ethics as I write this.  What I am considering is whether the universal moral standards that transcend a particular religion allow for this kind of thinking and behavior!

It reminds me of the incident that occurred a few months ago in Tennessee when firefighters stood by and let a man's house burn to the ground because he hadn't paid a $75 fee.  I, along with many others, was appalled by that; and I freely admit that if I had been a firefighter there that day, I would have had to disobey my orders and assist the man however I could.  Why?  Because there's a higher standard!

I'm sure I think about Charles and Caroline Ingalls and their children way too much when considering how to live my life.  :)  After all, they weren't perfect; and the Little House books only present part of the picture when it comes to their lives.  But really, can you imagine Pa standing by and letting someone's house burn down because of an unpaid fee?  No?  Neither can I.

Do you think that the pioneer spirit that built our country could tolerate such selfishness:  the selfishness that lets a house burn without attempting to put it out or the selfishness that says, "I'll give so it feels good, not until it hurts"?  What rubbish!

Sometimes I feel old.  I just feel old.  Too many times to count, I see or hear something and think, "What is this world coming to?  I can't believe how dark things are getting!"  Yep, it's true, I must be getting old, because hasn't every generation felt this way as they look at the generations coming up behind them?  But still, sometimes all I can do is shake my head and grieve.

It doesn't feel like that's enough.  Sure, I mourn the lack of {what I thought was} basic morality.  But I want to do more than cry about it.  I want to DO something.  I want to change the world!  I want to wipe out the darkness and bring the light and reform the bad guys and restore the relationships and erase the pain and...and...and...

But...sometimes all I do is grieve.

On Sunday, Jeff was talking about Lot, tracing his story through the Biblical text from first mention to last.  It was puzzling to me that, despite Lot's obvious weak morals and his legacy of compromise and taking the easy road (which turned out to be the hard one after all!), he is still called "righteous."  At first glance, that's about the last adjective I would use to describe him.  But in 2 Peter 2, we find these words:
...Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)...
He's not called righteous once, but three times!   And why?  Because he was distressed by the wickedness around him.

Maybe mourning is the necessary starting point.

Maybe grieving is more valuable than I thought. 


Marie said...

I grieve along beside you Davene, you sure have stirred my heart this late evening. You are so right and I take such comfort in your final conclusion. It is so distressing what people are reading and digesting into their families and hearts.

Thanks for sharing this and keeping the standard set high for those of us who are yearning for righteousness!

Much Love
~ Marie

Anonymous said...

Dear Davene, can we be next-door neighbors? I really think that my Peter would get along well with your boys. And I would love to have a like-minded friend like you to have these great conversations with! Your words in this post are so wise and it is a comfort to me to know that I am not the only one alarmed by what passes for popular culture these days.

I'm still having internet connection issues but I've been trying to keep up with the blogs and friends I love. *Loved* your wrap-up of your MIL series!

Would you please email me? My email addy is


I will get back to you ASAP. Sometimes it is hard for me to log on to my email account.

Sally said...

You have so well put into words what I have thought about those magazines. Every time I have a baby, I get several of that type of magazine. It just irks me how they all assume your baby (or children) run your entire life and you are at their mercy; that infanthood and childhood are something to be survived rather than enjoyed by parents and children alike; and that the highest thing is mommy-time, mommy putting herself first, etc. Right after having a baby, when your whole existence is shaky and tired and the whole family needs something from Mom, I soon realized these magazines depressed me. There was no way I could take mommy first time, and I didn't think that was right anyway. Besides, all the things they suggested (sneaking away for a massage or pedicure, and the like) are things I would consider a pure waste of time and nothing I wanted. Yes, I wanted some time to myself, but since that wasn't (and isn't) the season of life I was in, I decided the magazines were trash. I quit even opening them. I put them in the trash can the moment they arrive and it saves me an hour or two of discontented thoughts (that I would otherwise not have).

I am also very much with you on the language issue. I have been letting Paul look at the toys in some of the baby magazines that come. Now that he is reading, I believe I will have to look through them first and rip out some pages. Thanks for the heads up in that area. I just hadn't thought that far.

Valerie said...

I've seen the ad for wipes that you mentioned and I remember gasping and showing it to my husband. SO inappropriate.

Agree with all you have said here. Thanks for sharing :)

Kristen said...

You don't sit around all day wishing for longer lashes? That's all I do. Forget the husband, kids, house, etc...all I want is long lashes. ;) But in all seriousness, I couldn't have said what you said any better. I am often appalled at what people consider okay and normal...

Morning said...

Sometimes I seriously think the world has gone crazy and lost track of so much that is good and decent and important. What saddens me most is that so many people in our culture simply accept what is presented to them, rather than questioning it, which is the beginning of change.

Stacey said...

Davene, Such a heavy yet necessary post! I wholeheartedly agree with you. I love that you mentioned the marriage problems, with Kids becoming the center of a woman's world and the man is left behind. Sometimes I feel like I am in a world all my own. My kids are precious to me and I would do anything for them, However My husband comes first! The world tells us that we are horrible parents because we let our men take first place and our children take a back seat to them. But I will tell you, My kids have 2 parents that deeply love each other (dare I say we are madly in love after 16 yrs?) and rarely argue. My kids are deeply benefiting from me putting my husband before them or myself. We have a happy, healthy home. Thank you for this post it is eye opening and says so much of what I have been feeling for the last couple of years. Some times I become complacent, what a dangerous place to be... I think that is part of the reason Christianity is so watered down today. Also the Little House thing hit home with me as well. I am using a Little House unit study for my daughter this year and we love it! I know Pa would have put out that fire!!